For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Rob Douglas: Rookie chief needs oversight

Oak Creek officer agrees with himself on appropriate actions

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

On Monday, Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio announced he had concluded his internal investigation of the arrest and tasing of former town Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman by Sgt. Erik Foster. And - no surprise here - the chief agrees with himself.

On July 20, one day after Ms. Rodeman's arrest, the chief told the Steamboat Pilot & Today, "I have no reason to believe the actions that were taken were not appropriate."

On Monday, the chief announced he is "confident nothing inappropriate" occurred during the arrest of Rodeman. If prizes were awarded for predetermined outcomes to internal investigations conducted by rookie police chiefs with no meaningful police internal investigative experience, Chief Caterinicchio certainly would win.

The chief's prior police experience is limited to less than three years as a reserve officer with the Lone Tree Police Department. Yesterday, when I spoke with Lone Tree Police Chief Hasler's assistant, Chris Liley-Hudler, she recalled Chief Caterinicchio as having worked "in our records division" before becoming a reserve officer who assisted other full-time officers.

Although that background might qualify a reserve officer to become a full-time probationary officer in many police departments, it does not magically transform a novice officer into a seasoned investigator or police chief.

Furthermore, Chief Caterinicchio's behavior - along with that of Sgt. Foster - should be subject to investigation by a qualified investigator, to provide answers to an ever-growing list of questions.

Why did Chief Caterinicchio fail to answer repeated calls from Routt County Communications requesting him to back up Sgt. Foster?

Has Chief Caterinicchio explicitly or implicitly instituted a policy of targeting the Colorado Bar & Grill because it is owned by Mayor J. Elliott, who sought to disband the police department?

Why did Sgt. Foster erroneously report that he was in danger of attack by five people and, knowing other officers were risking their lives driving at exceptionally high speeds to assist him, not correct that erroneous information?

Perhaps the most troubling question concerning Chief Caterinicchio is whether he possesses the temperament necessary to be an effective police chief in a small rural town.

On July 24, while attending a meeting of the Oak Creek Town Board, I witnessed firsthand the contempt the chief displays for those he disagrees with - citizens and elected officials alike.

During the meeting, the chief snapped at and interrupted Police Commissioner Dave Ege mid-sentence as the commissioner stated he thought the chief had threatened him during a phone call. The chief was rude and dismissive toward Commissioner Ege, showing a complete lack of respect for an elected official with oversight authority.

Just minutes earlier in the meeting, the chief demonstrated his utter disdain for a resident of Oak Creek, Eric Bowman, who was concerned about the use of Tasers. By intentionally and deliberately burying his nose in a police magazine instead of respectfully listening to the public comment of Mr. Bowman, the chief signaled to all attending the meeting that Mr. Bowman was not worthy of the chief's attention.

Later, during a break in the meeting, when Mr. Bowman attempted to discuss the issue of Tasers directly with the chief, the chief just kept repeating the word "preposterous" with an air of condescension.

The chief seems to think he is always the smartest man in the room and that those who disagree with him or question his policies are to be disregarded. This behavior raises serious questions about whether the chief has the temperament, disposition and overall psychological underpinnings to deal with the requirements and rigors of police work.

The residents of Oak Creek should question why some members of the Oak Creek Town Board seem content to allow Chief Caterinicchio to run roughshod over their authority and oversight responsibility.

If, as some citizens think, certain members of the Town Board are looking the other way while the chief targets their political opponents, Oak Creek has more serious problems than are already apparent.

At this point, the only appropriate remedy is for the Town Board to initiate an outside investigation of the Rodeman arrest and of the Oak Creek Police Department's management.

But, unless more residents of Oak Creek step forward and demand the board exercise appropriate oversight, nothing will change.

- To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail douglas@privacytoday.com.

Comments

Scott Wedel 6 years ago

At the special Monday August 4th meeting the Town Board has decided to remain ignorant and wait. To wait until Cargo files a complaint. To wait until discovery at her trial seeks everything that could show a pattern of selective or targeted enforcement, or a pattern of failing to adequately review and respond to complaints.

And the Town is going to have a hard time arguing to a judge that any aspect of that should not be granted because the Town will not have anyone able to report any findings of any independent facts. It is going to be Cargo's lawyer doing an investigation and slanting it towards his favor with his experts and so on.

By failing to seek an independent review of the case, the Town Board is accepting the Chief's findings as the official findings of the Town of OC. That'll help Cargo at her civil trial.

I am not sure if the Town Board is acting this way because they truly support Chief Russ or because they want to pay Cargo, a mayor who won with nearly twice as many votes as the current mayor, as much money as possible at her civil trial.

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innovated 6 years ago

Rob Douglas' article was very enlightening as an outsider looking in with an objective opinion. I think it was an interesting depiction of the 'Chief's' superior image he has created for himself and apparently, anyone opposing him, or questioning his authority lays open a hidden threat of reprisal which creates fear of retaliation or targeting. What an interesting observation noting the 'Chief' would read through a police magazine, and disrespect a citizen by not affording any consideration by sincerely or thoughtfully addressing an issue and remedying a problem. By not allowing an Oak Creek citizen to feel comfortable with opposition of any of the 'Chief's' decisions or the citizen is made to feel any questioning of authority is frivolous and not worthy of a civil answer; it is no wonder complaints are not recognized in the town as valid. There is something critically wrong when one elevates himself with a pompous demeanor that all are wrong, that he alone has the only answer and how dare you question his authority you insignificant little bug.

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Scott Wedel 6 years ago

And if the head of the FBI retired to OC to become police chief then maybe some arrogance would be tolerable, but Chief Russ is wrong way too often.

How in the world did Chief Russ fail to notice that Officer Foster violated numerous police procedures that night? As obvious as failing to radio dispatch of the make and plates for his traffic stop and failing to get Cargo a medical check by an EMT after being TASERed which is in the OCPD police manual. And also just about everything in between those events also failed to follow proper police procedure.

It does not require a complaint from Cargo or anyone else for there to justify an independent review. There is obvious failure to follow police procedures and a Chief unable to notice the mistakes of his Sergeant Foster.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years ago

Scott- According to previous articles, Cargo did get a medical check. It just didn't say who initiated it or how it was initiated. Also, if an independent review hasn't happened yet, why won't you or Cargo or any other OC resident actually just take the time to file a formal complaint, and get it over with? Or, someone can file a lawsuit. Maybe that will prick up a few ears. But if it's a concern and nobody else is doing it...somebody who is concerned...should. To not do that basically says the people don't care enough or don't have enough to go on.

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nmypinon 6 years ago

Well hopefully in light of the the medical call last night ( that was just steps away from the chiefs home) Chuck will realize just how much the chief cares about this town. And how bad of a job he really does. Eileen beat Russ to the scene. That alone should be a sign of his priorities. And that while Chuck was trying to get to the scene there was people blocking his way & you could hear Chuck yelling for people to get out of his way. Maybe Chuck will make a complaint of his own stating that Russ has a slow response time & see how Russ reacts to him so that he (Chuck) can see first hand how Russ handles his compaint department. And treats the person that compains against him.

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

My run-in with the Chief at the meeting a couple of weeks ago was nothing short of bizarre. At the first break, he sought me out to shake my hand and thank me for my presentation. At the second break, the Chief accosted me, asking technical questions about hot pursuit and such -- perhaps he should have been paying attention to what I was trying to say, as hot pursuit had nothing to do with it. I also brought up the fact that the 911 call I made on Memorial Day weekend (to report an assault in progress) had a 35-minute response time, which only seemed to infuriate him.

I then criticized the Chief for copy/pasting the OCPD Taser policy directly from Taser International, a blatant conflict of interest, to which he replied that maybe I should have the ACLU draft our policies -- a completely unprofessional and downright childish reply. In 5 minutes, I went from giving the Chief the benefit of the doubt, to demanding his termination. A few days later, the Chief got into a shouting match with David Bonfiglio, in the Pharmacy, in front of witnesses, about these same issues.

The real problem with trying to have a rational discussion with the Chief, is he makes up facts to suit his position. Such as, "every Police Department in America carries Tasers," which takes all of two minutes of research to refute, and gets totally hostile with anyone who disagrees with him. My personal run-in at the meeting, began with the Chief telling me that he "did not appreciate the allegations" I made against his Department. Again, perhaps the Chief should have been listening to what I said. Judge for yourselves, I'll follow up this post with the text of the statement I read into the record that night.

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

Here's part one, I had to split it due to the comment-lenght-limit here:

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be free from the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment. So do Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. These acts have all been ratified by the Congress and signed into law by various Presidents. While the original proposed use of the Taser as an alternative to lethal force may be valid, it is my belief that the real-world use of Taser weapons against citizens for other purposes often runs afoul of the Law. I am not alone in this belief.

Amnesty International gave a statement to a U.S. Justice Department inquiry in September, 2007. A partial transcript of this statement reads:

" While in the United States police operate under professional standards, we are concerned that many U.S. police departments are using Tasers to subdue non-compliant or disturbed individuals who do not pose a serious danger to themselves or others. As our reports have documented, there are many cases where we believe use of Tasers has contravened international standards which require that police use force only when strictly necessary, in proportion to the threat posed, only for as long as the threat exists and in a manner designed to minimize pain or injury. We have documented disturbing instances where we believe that Taser use has amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law. The U.N. Committee against Torture has called on the United States to deploy Tasers only as a non-lethal alternative to using firearms.

We are particularly concerned about the capacity of Tasers to be used in close contact situations as a stun weapon including in situations where individuals appear to be already effectively in custody and to inflict repeated shocks over a relatively prolonged period. While we believe the drive-stun mode is especially open to abuse, we note that in dart-mode also there have been instances of alleged abuse, with officers able to inflict repeated shocks once the darts have taken hold.

...

The degree of tolerable risk involving Tasers, as with all weapons and restraint devices, must be weighed against the threat posed. It is self-evident that Tasers are less injurious than firearms where officers are confronted with a serious threat that could escalate to deadly force. However, the vast majority of people who have died after being struck by Tasers have been unarmed men who did not pose a threat of death or serious injury when they were electro-shocked. In many cases they appear not to have posed a significant threat at all. "

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

(part 2)

AI has also stated:

" Of the 291 reported deaths, the organization has identified only 25 individuals who were reportedly armed with any sort of weapon when they were electro-shocked; such weapons did not include firearms.

...

Amnesty International calls on all governments and law enforcement agencies to either cease using Tasers and similar devices pending the results of thorough, independent studies, or limit their use to situations where officers would otherwise be justified in resorting to deadly force where no lesser alternatives are available. Strict guidelines and monitoring should govern all such use. "

The U.N. Committee Against Torture issued a report in November, 2007 stating, "The Committee was worried that the use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture, and that in certain cases it could also cause death, as shown by several reliable studies and by certain cases that had happened after practical use." A Jury in San Jose, California in June, 2008 awarded a $6.2 million-dollar verdict against Taser International in a product liability lawsuit stemming from the death of a suspect at the hands of a police officer who was unaware of the dangers posed by the use of the device.

In September, 2007 the "Annals of Emergency Medicine" reported on the case of a law enforcement officer who volunteered to be a demonstration subject and suffered spinal fractures as a result. He is also not alone; it has been reported that Taser International has reached out-of-court settlements in many lawsuits brought against it by police officers who have suffered injuries training with the device. Perhaps this is why the International Association of Chiefs of Police stated the need for further testing in April, 2005, or why the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground weapons-testing facility recommended against the demonstration of Taser weapons on citizens and soldiers in February, 2005.

Taser International is now the subject of multiple inquiries and lawsuits. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Attorney General of Arizona (where Taser has its headquarters) have been investigating the company for false claims made about the safety of its products, as well as other shady business practices. The City of Dolton, Illinois, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the company on behalf of all police departments, based on misleading claims the company has made about the safety of its products. The Justice Departments of the United States and Canada are conducting multiple ongoing investigations into occurrences of death after suspects are Tasered. The City of Houston, Taser International's largest customer, has formed a committee of police, citizens, the ACLU and others to thoroughly review its Taser policy due to several controversies which have resulted from Taser deployment.

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

(conclusion)

Clearly, then, the use of Taser weapons remains controversial. The verdict on Taser safety has not yet been rendered, by the government or the courts or by independent studies, all of which are ongoing at this time. Until such time as a consensus is reached on the issue, I believe it would be in the best interests of Public Safety and the liability of the Town to potential lawsuits, to reconsider their deployment by the Oak Creek Police Department. I ask that the Town Board consider enacting a moratorium against the use of Taser devices for a period of 3-5 years to protect our citizens against unintentional injury or death, and the Town against any liability which may arise should that happen. At the very least, the Police Department's escalation-of-force policy should be reviewed and changed to conform with the non-controversial use of the Taser as an alternative to lethal force ONLY and discontinue its use as a "pain compliance" device when public and officer safety are not at risk.

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

As we're discussing the Chief's temperament, it should be noted that last year the Chief was parked in front of the Post Office, received a call, and rear-ended the pickup parked in front of him before driving away. A while ago, Bill Paxton confronted the Chief about this issue, asking whether an incident report existed or not. The exchange got testy, resulting in the Chief taking a step back from Bill and putting his hand on the butt of his service revolver!

This behavior, towards leading citizens of this town who own businesses on Main Street (and others like myself), is simply outrageous.

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eastboy 6 years ago

As an 'outsider" watching and listening to the Oak Creek police' circus I find it almost impossible to believe. Tickets for jaywalking?Hot pursuit in a little town where the cops know who you are and what you drive?Forcible entry into a residence?Tasing a woman who has not attacked you?For not using a turn signal at one in the morning when your the only vehicle on the road? Why O why haven't the town officials thrown these two guys out on their ear? Do they just want to get sued? They wouldn't qualify for dog catchers anywhere I know. Then again, have you seen the Stop/Yield sign at the railroad crossing? DUUUUH Thanks for the interest. Eastboy

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upstream 6 years ago

Mr. Bowman- it is unfortunate to hear that tired urban legends are again resurfacing. It sounds to this local as if you and Mr. Douglas get your information from the same sources. We all know the incident you describe above did not happen- Why? Because we were there to hear Bill make his accusation against the chief, then admit he did not know what happened, but, "the girls in the shop told him"... At the break he went and shook the chief's hand and apologized for many of us to hear. As poetic as you make it sound, no hands were layed on any weapons. The thoughful among us believed it was layed to rest at the police forum when cal martindale (the owner of the truck parked in front of the mini-mall/ bonfigs and rear ended as the chief was responding to a "code" in the mini-mall- this is in the public record) stood tall and denounced the rumors, stating the chief had resolved the incident that very day and asking for it to be FINALLY dropped from the public gossip. It is a real drag that we have Mr. Douglas, the editorial board of the Steamboat Enquirer and you all so eager to stir up trouble for the community of Oak Creek by spewing rumor and half-truth. It has gotten so old. Any chance of hearing something about our kids' successes @ fair this year, our wastewater collection system improvements or our efforts to make regional transportaion a reality?

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Eric J. Bowman 6 years ago

Thank you for the clarification on the incident with Cal's truck, I had not heard that it was laid to rest. No need to be rude about it, however. The incident with David Bonfiglio is no rumour, though. Are you suggesting it's OK for the Chief to engage in verbal altercations with shop owners in front of their customers? Or anyone who disagrees with him, regardless of setting? How do the thoughtful amongst us respond to that?

Look the other way and talk about infrastructure? Loose cannons running law enforcement around here is every bit as deserving of coverage, perhaps even more so when potentially-lethal force is used on someone sitting down with their hands up. Kudos to the Pilot and Mr. Douglas for the courage to cover this issue, despite all the knee-jerk negativity from some who would rather sweep it under the rug.

It is not me that is "stirring up trouble" in this community, sir. My goal is for my community to be a nice place to live, which won't be the case with an authoritarian police department believing itself accountable to nobody and behaving with contempt and disrespect to its citizens -- no matter how well the kids do at the fair.

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Scott Wedel 6 years ago

In any other police dept it does not require a complaint to start an internal investigation. It takes evidence of police error.

It is typical that the officer's report will not obviously describe serious errors in police procedure. It usually requires the victim or witnesses to say there were police errors and the officer's report is not accurate. But in this case, Chief Russ's own description of what happened describes serious errors in police procedures. Or do you really believe it is proper police procedure to chase 3 people into a house without backup or radioing dispatch of your location and actions? Or radioing dispatch that you are under attack and failing to radio back that the situation is now under control? Or for the person reviewing the actions of another officer to announce prior to looking at all the evidence the results of the investigation?

And if you believe that things were done correctly then why resist an independent investigation? If things were done right then the independent investigation would show that.

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